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Old 01-25-2006, 12:44 PM   #13
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Article: Teaching Aikido as Michi - A Path Up the Mountain by George S. Ledyard

Ted Ehara wrote:
I actually was referring to John Stevens. He is a qualified instructor who studied under Shirata Rinjiro Sensei. Yet he sells his style as Classical Aikido in which you use his translations to understand O Sensei. During his lifetime the founder was continually developing his aikido and he really did not have a particular style. This was a person who was constantly innovating, yet traditionalists try and teach his aikido as a particular style that fits their level of understanding.

A traditional martial artist learns by good example, therefore you find the need for high-level instructors. However you can also learn from mistakes and people usually have more mistakes than successes. The hard thing about learning this way is that you need to know why it is a mistake and what needs to be done to correct it. But once you set-up a feedback structure that recognizes and corrects mistakes, there is less reliance on an instructor.

As far as transmission goes, this might sound heretical for organized martial arts, but people can learn even if there is no one to teach them. Mushashi became a top duelist even though he never formally studied sword. Tai Chi was done by thousands when suddenly Chen Man-Ching got it and the art flowered under his practice.

Perhaps it's the different areas we live in, but I'm finding experienced instructors more and more. Maybe it's because I see everyone as carrying a piece of a puzzle I would like to solve, that is why I find myself more open to learning. While I go to seminars to learn from high-ranked instructors, I do it out of curiosity not necessity.

There is a story told in various cultures throughout history. It's about a wise man who goes into the forest and returns with a pile of gold. As the years pass, the wise man eventually dies and the gold is given to his disciples. However when they receive it, the gold turns to ashes.

Maybe a way to stop this transformation is to simply recognize it as gold and treat it as such. Or as some say, "The martial arts begins and ends with respect."

I don't disagree with anything you've said. I don't think we are in disagreement but I think we have different ways of talking about it. I suspect that the manner in which we describe our ideas triggers reactions which we already have to other problems and issues we see in Aikido.

My own experience has been that, in almost all cases, the folks that I have debated with turn out to have remarkably similiar ideas once we get together and train. The only folks that I bother to get into "debates" with are folks who are both passionate and knowledgeable about Aikido or martial arts... no point wasting time with people who either just want to cause trouble or don't have a clue what they are talking about. Just this fact alone seems to account for the fact that, even when we seem to have disagreements, in the end we have far more in common than we do with those who don't care as much or haven't put as much time and effort into their training.

I do agree on some level with your comments about Stevens Sensei... if he had just combined his last six or so publications you'd have actually had a book... but his promotion of "Classical Aikido" is something I iunderstand although it is certainly not my own path. The New Year's letter by Patrick Auge Sensei to his students which was published on Aikido Journal made alot of sense to me. He said that the Aikido that he learned from his teacher, Mochizuki Sensei, is really an "endagered species" in a sense. He feels that it is his mission, as one who was given the great gift of this teaching, to preserve it and pass it on. In the sense that Shirata Sensei was certainly one of the giants of Aikido, it's a valuable service to us all that Stevens Sensei has chosen to preserve what he was taught and put it into an organized form so that we can benefit from it. The same thing can be said about Saito Sensei and the "Iwama Ryu" or the different styles of Aikido like Yoshinkan, Shudokan, etc.

I do part company from the folks that would maintain that any of these "styles" is the real or authentic Aikido as presented by O-Sensei as opposed to the other styles. We are in total agreement that O-Sensei a) O-Sensei spent his whole life looking at all sorts of arts, both martial and spiritual, and was constantly changing what he did and b) that he never created a "Style" called Aikido in the sense that there was a set curriculum or a set of techniques that had to be done a certain way. The various "styles" of Aikido are merely the differing "approaches" taken by the students over the years. At most they might represent a temporal snapshot of O-Sensei's Aikido at one point in time and more often they represent the personal interpretation created by O-Sensei's instruction coupled with the other martial and spiritual experiences on the part of that particular deshi who later created that "style".

Saotome Sensei has vehemently maintained that there are no "styles" of Aikido, only the varied approaches of the different students of the Founder. For this reason he has always encouraged his students to get the widest possible exposure to both other Aikido teachers and other martial arts. From a personal training standpoint it is rather ironic that the students of the Uchi-Deshi turn around and try to freeze their teacher's approaches into something unchangeable and static. It might be nice for the rest of us to have the opportunity to train in a way that is sort of a museum piece but it isn't what was modeled by our teachers. Every one of us has to dsicover his own Aikido... When I say that we should look to O-Sensei as the model for what we do, I don't mean that we freeze something in place or try to duplicate the exact elements of his personal training. He represents a model for how we might proceed, how the spritual can be balanced with the martial, etc. We have to find our own ways of working out how to do that for ourselves.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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